Dion Waiters shows he’s got some work to do after Summer League debut

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LAS VEGAS — The image you should take away of Cleveland’s Dion Waiters from his Summer League debut is him standing out by the arc, waiving his arm calling for the ball.

Or maybe it is the image of him getting the inbound pass with his team down one and 3.9 seconds left in the game, getting trapped by a double team and calling a time out — but the Cavs were out of timeouts, so it was a technical and the Bobcats ball. He pulled a Chris Webber. (Waiters said he didn’t know and the coach admitted he did not remind players they were out of timeouts when setting up the inbounds play.)

Neither of those are the images Waiters wants you to have of him when games start to actually matter come the fall. Becoming an NBA player is a process and Waiters has taken only one small step on that road.

But it was a stumbling step for a guy who rocketed up draft boards all the way to No. 4 (raising some eyebrows around the league). Waiters seemed to spend a lot of his first game either calling for the ball or shooting it when he got it. He was taking jumpers and not getting in the paint — he opened the game hitting a contested three and after that seemed to settle more than he should have. The result was 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

“I wasn’t following through, I was leaning back, I wasn’t on balance,” Waiters said of his shooting on the night. “I hurt myself tonight with my jump shot….

“I stopped attacking. I should have kept attacking but I wasn’t really getting no calls going to the hole. I just got to keep attacking, in the league rookies don’t get a lot of calls anyway.”

Waiters had a lot thrown on his shoulders in his opener — Kyrie Irving was supposed to be the guy with the ball in his hands and Waiters was supposed to play off him. But after Irving broke his hand and was out for Summer League, the Cavaliers decided to see what Waiters would do with the ball in his hands. Waiters had the green light all night, like he did back at Syracuse.

It was not all bad, it was mixed. He did attack at times and drew some fouls. He had four assists and should have had more as he did a good job moving the ball but none of the Cavaliers were hitting their looks.

On defense, there were moments Waiters looked like a rookie at times. He lost his man on defense when ball watching more than once.

It wasn’t an impressive debut. But Summer League is about learning and gaining experience, what matters is not this game but how he applies what he learned in this game to the next one. And the next one.

“It was a learning experience,” Waiters said. “It was good to get out there for the first time in a long time. I just want to come back better.”

He’s got the right attitude. We’ll see if he can live up to the hype.

Michael Avenatti charged with stealing money Hassan Whiteside intended to pay ex-girlfriend

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Heat center Hassan Whiteside became the first player in NBA history to go from a minimum salary one season to a max salary the next.

Some of that money allegedly got embezzled by Michael Avenatti.

Avenatti – the infamous lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, who claimed she was paid to keep quiet about having an affair with Donald Trump – has been charged with attempted extortion of Nike and stealing from other clients. One of those other clients: Whiteside’s former girlfriend, Alexis Gardner.

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times:

An actress and barista, she’d hired him just a few weeks before to negotiate a settlement of a potential lawsuit against Whiteside. It’s unclear what she would have alleged. Avenatti quickly struck a $3-million deal, and the $2.75 million was Whiteside’s first payment.

Avenatti, prosecutors say, was entitled to take just over $1 million in legal fees, leaving the rest for Gardner.

Instead, they allege, Avenatti hid Whiteside’s payment from her and immediately took $2.5 million to buy a share of a private jet.

Report: Lakers have no plans to replace Magic Johnson, who’ll still help team recruit FAs

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Magic Johnson’s stunning resignation as Lakers president caused a commotion.

It didn’t create a power vacuum.

Rob Pelinka is clearly in charge. He’s the highest-ranking member of the front office. His title – general manager – is the one many teams give to the leader of their basketball operations. He’s running the Lakers’ coaching search.

Though they’ve been linked to big-name candidates for president, the Lakers could easily keep the status quo with Pelinka running the show. And it sounds as if that’s what Lakers owner Jeanie Buss will do.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer.

Allowing Pelinka to hire a head coach – which, again, he’s in the process of doing – then supplanting him would be absurd. At least it seems the Lakers aren’t doing that.

But Pelinka was part of the organization while it made a comedy of errors. The former agent also had front-office experience until getting hired with Johnson a couple years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s the right choice to lead the team as it enters this critical stage.

LeBron James is 34. The Lakers will have max cap space this summer. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are progressing toward establishing clearer value – one way or the other.

To entrust Pelinka in this situation, Buss ought to have a clear explanation for why Pelinka doesn’t deserve a fair share of blame for all the mistakes that occurred the last couple years. There are plenty of people, inside and outside the Lakers, who question him.

The wildest part about this report: Johnson still helping the Lakers recruit this summer. He’s an all-time great player and charismatic. But he also just said while resigning:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.

How will he sell that to free agents – especially if Pelinka, suspected to be whom Johnson is referring to, remains in charge?

Russell Westbrook goes from ‘Next question’ to ‘That’s a good question. Not sure’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook can be a pain.

Pain to his opponents. Pain to his teammates. Pain to the media.

Sometimes, it seems Westbrook even takes pride in being a jerk. Which is fine. His cutthroat attitude is part of who he is, and it has gotten him a long way.

Lately, Westbrook has clashed with Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. For months, Westbrook has answered all Tramel’s questions with, “Next question.” Yet, Tramel keeps asking them – as he should. Westbrook has earned control over a lot of things. Tramel shouldn’t cede control of his job to Westbrook.

The back-and-forth has gotten increased prominence during the playoffs, when postgame press conferences are nationally televised. Both sides have found plenty of support. Westbrook’s fans love that his intensity never relents. Many also respect Tramel’s professionalism.

Four years ago, Westbrook infamously told Tramel, “I just don’t like you.” Westbrook got into it with Tramel again two years ago. But Tramel continues to cover the Thunder the best he can.

Likewise, Westbrook is trying to lead Oklahoma City the best he can. That means picking battles, even small ones like this, and pushing himself to win them all.

But after the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Trail Blazers last night, Westbrook finally gave an inch. But just an inch.

Tramel asked how the Thunder’s defense of Damian Lillard changed from the first half to the second half.

“That’s a good question,” Westbrook said. “Not sure.”

Tramel asked about the lessons learned about overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Grizzlies in the 2014 playoffs. (Oklahoma City trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in that series, but never 3-1).

“Really don’t know,” Westbrook said.

For Westbrook, those answers were a huge breakthrough. They surprised everyone, even Tramel. Just a few days ago, the columnist predicted Westbrook wouldn’t change his two-word answers anytime soon: “He’s not going to give in this playoff series.”

Maybe this means the series is over.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse leaves mouth agape a loooong time after odd call (video)

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The Raptors got called for an extremely quick three-second violation during their Game 4 win over the Magic yesterday.

Toronto coach Nick Nurse couldn’t believe it.

Really couldn’t believe it.

Just couldn’t believe it one bit.